Report: Skip Schumaker signs two-year contract with Cincinnati Reds.

Skip SchumakerSkip Schumaker and the Cincinnati Reds have a two-year contract in place, according to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. The contract is pending a physical.

Schumaker batted .263/.332/.332 in 125 games last season for the Dodgers, primarily as a backup second baseman and outfielder. He also made two appearances as a mop-up reliever, pitching one inning in each game while not allowing a run.

The free-agent period is beginning slowly, but some of the earliest player movement has depleted the Dodgers’ bench.

Veteran utilityman Nick Punto signed a one-year contract last Wednesday with the A’s, with an option for 2015. In Schumaker, the Dodgers lose Punto’s carpool mate and another versatile veteran who was well-respected in the clubhouse.

Neither defection is terribly surprising. General manager Ned Colletti said in his season-ending press conference that he wanted to bring back a younger roster in 2014. Schumaker, who turns 34 in February, and Punto, 36, don’t fit that mold.

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Ranking the Dodgers’ twelve in-house free agents.

J.P.  Howell

Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell became a free agent on Thursday. (Getty Images)

As noted here this morning, the Dodgers have 12 in-house free agents after they declined the options on second baseman Mark Ellis and pitcher Chris Capuano.

Not all 12 will be back, but here’s an educated guess at the likelihood of each player returning to the Dodgers, ranked in order of least likely to most:
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Daily Distractions: Let the free agency period begin.

Red Sox fans

Boston Red Sox fans celebrate the start of free agency Wednesday night. (Associated Press photo)

The World Series is over, making ringbearers of the Red Sox and free agents of dozens of players around baseball.

The Dodgers will have at least 10: Ricky Nolasco, Michael Young, Juan Uribe, Carlos Marmol, Jerry Hairston, Edinson Volquez, Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto, J.P. Howell and Brian Wilson. Per MLB rules, the Dodgers have exclusive negotiating rights with each player up until midnight Eastern Time Monday, after which all are free to sign with any club.

Sometime within the next five days, general manager Ned Colletti and staff must ultimately decide whether or not to extend these players a qualifying offer, a guaranteed contract for 2014 equal to the average salary of the highest-paid 125 players. This year, that’s $14.1 million.

The potential risk every team faces in extending a qualifying offer is that the player will accept the offer and receive more money than he would by testing the open market. The potential reward is twofold: 1, you might re-sign the player at a discount compared to his open-market value; 2, if the player doesn’t accept the qualifying offer and signs elsewhere, your team receives a first-round draft pick in 2014 from the team that does sign the player.

Of the Dodgers’ 10 free agents, Nolasco is the only viable candidate to receive a qualifying offer. He made $11.5 million last year. What’s another $2.6 million? That’s the, um, $2.6 million question that’s been floating around the front offices at Chavez Ravine this month. The answer should be an easy one: Since Nolasco didn’t begin the year with the Dodgers, they won’t receive any draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.

More on him, and the other free agents, later today.

We should also note here that Chris Capuano and Mark Ellis have options for 2014 in their contracts. Capuano’s is a mutual option for $8 million with a $1 million buyout; Ellis’ is a $5.75 million club option with a $1 million buyout. If the team declines the option on both players, that’s a dirty dozen Dodgers destined to hit the free-agent market.

Some bullet points for an Allantide morning:
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Why have the Dodgers shortened their bench in the playoffs?

Through their first seven postseason games, the Dodgers have given at-bats to three position players off their bench: Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and Michael Young — no Tim Federowicz, Scott Van Slyke or Dee Gordon.

Why the short bench?

“It depends on how the game goes,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “These games have been telling us what to do. When your starting pitching is going deep every day, you don’t use pinch-hitters. Zack went 8, right? Kersh was 7 full. Ryu — when guys are going deep you don’t use pinch-hitters.”

The script changed on Tuesday. Dodgers starter Ricky Nolasco was removed after four innings. Schumaker pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot, then was removed from the game, so we could see more of the Dodgers’ bench tonight.

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Andre Ethier joins Hanley Ramirez as game-time decision for Game 3 of NLCS. Update.

Andre Ethier

Andre Ethier was limping after chasing fly balls in the Dodger Stadium outfield prior to Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Monday. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)

Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier will be a game-time decision for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series after missing Game 2 with an injury to his lower left leg.

He hit several line drives in batting practice and a couple home runs. Covering the full range of center field at Dodger Stadium was a different matter.

Ethier’s range was limited, as he came up limping on a few particularly long runs to the gap. He chose not to jump for a ball that barely cleared the wall in right-center field. Ethier did not limp at any point while attempting to run the bases during batting practice, but he did not approach full speed.

Ethier played all 13 innings of Game 1 in center field, which Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called a “worst-case scenario” in light of the injury. Skip Schumaker was the Dodgers’ center fielder in Game 2 on Saturday, a 1-0 loss, and figures to start today if Ethier can’t.

“We’ll have to see him get out on the field, see what he can do, and we’ll kind of go from there,” Mattingly said during his afternoon media session prior to BP. “Another game-time (decision) or at least after BP or during BP at some point, we’re going to be able to figure out if he’s going to go or not.”

Update (3 p.m.): Ethier said he can play, but wasn’t sure if he would be in the lineup.

“I’m going to go in and talk to Donnie,” he said after batting practice.

Asked how he felt compared to Game 1 of the NLCS, Ethier said, “about the same. I don’t think quite as physically sharp but definitely able to go out there and play and get the job done.”

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